Thursday, December 16, 2010

“Acting Like Your Father”

Christmas is that time of year when our minds are scrambling, trying to figure out what kinds of gifts to give to the people we love.  Gifts that would meet our loved ones needs.  Gifts that would bring them joy and speak to who they are.  For some this process is exciting and fun; for others it is frustrating and stressful.  For me, not having very many gifts to give, (as my wife takes care of most of that) Christmas has become a season that I can spend my time reflecting upon the magnitude of the greatest gift ever given.  A gift that came packaged as a new born baby, wrapped up not in gleaming ribbons and colorful paper, but in swaddling clothes.  A gift not place under a tree, but in a manger in a smelly barn.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)   It is one thing for us to give gifts to others out of our abundance, it is quite another to give to someone what we value most.  To give up our most valued treasure.  That is what God did. He gave what he deemed most valuable, His only son in “whom he was well pleased.”  God gave us his best while we were still rebelling against Him. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) 

Not only did God love us so much he gave us his most valuable treasure, but scripture teaches us that Jesus gave us his most valuable treasure as well, his very life.  “The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal.2:20)  Jesus considered you more valuable than himself, so he gave his life blood in order to redeem you.  When Jesus was dying on the cross those watching from the crowd made a very prophetic statement, for they said, “He saved others; himself he cannot save.” (Matt. 27:42)  And that was true. He could save us or he could save himself, but he could not do both.  For if he chose to save himself then we would be doomed to eternal death.  Amazingly he chose to save us by giving himself.

Christmas can be a time of physical and financial drain; we can easily lose perspective and get lost in the hubbub of activities. We often view giving as a burden rather than a blessing.  However, try to remember as you go about your Christmas busyness- you are never more like God, you are never more like Jesus, than when you love and when you give.  Love is who God is; giving is what he does.  So when you love, and when you give, you are being like Jesus. Give to your friend; give to your family but don’t forget to give to those in need and those who are hurting, not just those in your neighborhood but everywhere in the world hurting people are found.  Look for opportunities to give to people you don’t even know, just to let them know God sees them and cares about them.  Giving is not restricted to finances, but also includes our time, talents, and energy.  If we are to give as Jesus gives, we will freely give love and grace, forgiveness and encouragement; even to those who seemingly least deserve it.  How can I withhold forgiveness, when God has forgiven me so much?  How can I withhold grace when Jesus has lavished so much grace upon me?  How can I withhold love, when Jesus gave his very life blood for me?

Once you learn to give from a heart filled with love and gratitude, pouring yourself out for others, binding up their wounds and carrying their burdens; then you will be just like your Father in heaven, who is the author of both love and giving.  “For God so loved…he gave.”  Then when your old aunt from Ohio shows up at your house this Christmas, pinches you on the cheek and says in a high pitched voice, “You act just like your father,” you will smile brightly on the inside and think, “That is what I was hoping for.”

“If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.” 1 John 4:12

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